A busy weekend around Los Angeles with the TCM Classic Film Festival, Asian Pacific Film Festival, UCLA Film and Television Archive's Patricio Guzmán retrospective and a slew of new theatrical releases, including films by Werner Herzog and Takashi Miike. We catch you up on all of them below.
The second annual TCM Classic Film Festival takes over Hollywood this weekend, and once again offers a wide array of films, from the monolithic to the hyper-obscure; Michael Atkinson, Karina Longworth and myself offer up twelve must-sees to help make your decisions a little easier (or maybe a little harder).
Michael Atkinson considers the work of Patricio Guzmán on the eve of the UCLA Film and Television Archive's extensive retrospective, and argues that “Plenty of major documentary makers have dedicated themselves to being portraitists of their homeland, but no one has done it as relentlessly and righteously as Patricio Guzmán, for 35 years Chile's defiant verité John the Baptist and activist laureate.”
In his overview of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Ernest Hardy singles out Phil Cox's The Bengali Detective and Taika Waititi's Boy as “highlights in a typically strong lineup for this festival, which leans heavily on crowd-pleasers.”
Karina reviews Stake Land and finds it to be “an ambitious hybrid, grafting the ethereal, landscape-driven, light-infused beauty and naif narration associated with Terrence Malick onto a tale in which struggle against supernatural forces is just one challenge of coming of age — a trope that has become inescapably trendy of late, but hasn't had such a sense of balance between the fantastic and the organic since the heyday of Joss Whedon.”
J. Hoberman calls Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams “one of the few justifiable recent excursions into 3-D…often masterful in representing the way in which the paintings' shaped surfaces enhance perspective, or in revealing how deep space might be defined by light” but wishes the German director “maintained the cave's silence, deep enough to hear your heartbeat” rather than filling it with those two old Herzog standbys, “philosophical vapors (“Is this the origin of the soul?”) and New Age music.”
Karina finds Fast Five to be in good hands with director Justin Lin, who when he's not delivering chase scenes “pumped to near-Crank levels of absurdity” shows “the confidence to ellipses out anything that would only serve to tell us what we already know…and instead, devotes much screen time to Ocean's Eleven-style team building and caper plotting peppered with intentionally camp wisecracking.”
Nick Pinkerton looks at 13 Assassins, the latest from master genre-hopper Takashi Miike, and laments that though the epic battle that takes up the last third of the film is “a true carnival of destruction…Miike doesn't find a fresh way to engage with the material when laying out the characters and their personal codes.”
Michelle Orange praises Crayton Robey's Making The Boys, a documentary built around Mart Crowley's seminal queer play, The Boys In The Band, for its “assiduous research” but notes that “after so skillfully assembling the eloquent reflections of elder statesmen, boomer playwrights (like Tony Kushner), and cultural critics (like the Voice's Michael Musto), and Crowley himself, Robey's choice to rely on reality-TV twerps like Carson Kressley and Christian Siriano for lavender-life insight is baffling.”
For Mark Holcomb, the “staleness, bland presentation, and general lack of insight into this particular armpit of globalization” in Exporting Raymond, Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal's doc on adapting the series for Russian television, “are no surprise given its maker's pedigree and deep-insider status, but like its namesake, Exporting Raymond captures a few satisfyingly human moments.”
Nick Pinkerton says no more or less than needs to be said about Prom: “The self-reinforcing system of Prom's universe is so perfectly worked out in advance that all the movie needs to do is fulfill its requirements. It deserves nothing more or less than a Perfect Attendance award.”
Despite its impressive cast, Sympathy for Delicious, Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut, is rough going for Michelle Orange due to “a script that favors incident over story and direction that crowds scenes instead of letting them breathe.”
Italian thriller The Double Hour is D.O.A. for Nick Pinkerton, who's disappointed that “director Giuseppe Capotondi softens promising material to mush for the refined digestion of sophisto audiences.”
Don't be Hoodwinked Too!, as Michelle Orange calls it “One of the more depressing, desensitizing experiences [she's] had in a theater.”